Last Friday at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Jonathan Oppenheimer, Director of De Beers, and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete announced a $2 million project to help improve the impoverished lives of so-called "informal" diamond miners in Tanzania, who work in streams and river beds where diamonds occasionally wash up.
Informal mining is often unregulated, and workers are frequently exploited by middlemen and rogue traders. These conditions exist across western and central Africa and as a result, nearly 1.3 million informal miners live in total poverty, despite the value of the diamonds they mine. The goal of the De Beers project is to provide these miners with access to fair-market pricing and healthcare.
"De Beers does not have a business interest in informal mining, but we cannot sit idly by and watch millions of African miners and their families suffer," said Jonathan Oppenheimer. "While we may not have all the solutions or expertise, we hope to work in partnership with those that do to give this program the best chance of success."
De Beers is joining with the government of Tanzania and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the hope of creating a workable model that can be used to help informal miners in other diamond-producing countries like Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This commitment continues the De Beers efforts to address poverty among the informal mining communities already begun with its Diamond Development Initiative (DDI). DDI has been endorsed by the governments of Sierra Leone, Guinea, the DRC, Namibia and Tanzania and has received start-up project funding from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs.
"This is an example of the business-government partnerships we seek to build and sustain," said President Kikwete, who approached De Beers for its help. "Together, we can proclaim to Tanzanians that business is critical to the success of our development efforts."